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I came across this proverb in Ruskin Bond's "Our Trees Still Grow in Dehra". I searched a lot but I am not able to find its meaning. What does this proverb mean?

(There is no context about this proverb in the book. Ruskin Bond has enlisted teachings of a double bent beggar -it is just one of the listing of teachings provided by that beggar.)

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    This says “14 tales from India’s best storytellers”. Presumably this is an idiom translated from the tales in their native tongues. You might search the phrase + hindi for example. But I can tell you it is not at all a common or recognized phrase in English. – Dan Bron Jun 22 '18 at 10:29
  • @DanBron There's a synonym for "dung" that would make it a very common, but vulgar, idiom in English. Not the whole proverb, though, but the meaning seems pretty clear. – Barmar Jun 22 '18 at 16:10
  • @Barmar Sure, and you could change “elephant” for another animal more native to Anglophone nations... but the question is about this proverb as quoted in this work. The answer is “this isn’t a recognized or common proverb or aphorism in English”. We can speculate about the meaning as well, but it wouldn’t be a question about English anymore. No, the OP here has to investigate the meaning in the idiom of the storyteller quoted in the book (possibly Hindi?). – Dan Bron Jun 22 '18 at 16:13
  • Yeah, after thinking about what "eat shit" usually means in English, it doesn't seem like this proverb is using a similar meaning. – Barmar Jun 22 '18 at 16:14
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"eat dung" seems to refer to doing something very unpleasant. But sometimes there are ways to reduce the unpleasantness, and the proverb says that it's better to do this.

For instance, picking up trash is an unpleasant job. But if you do it in a nice neighborhood, it's a little less unpleasant. So if you've got to become a garbage collector, you should apply for the job in a nice town.

  • Or a diamond mine, or a changing room. – Kris Jul 19 '18 at 6:46

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